Jamal Boykin, 6-6 JR PF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. Boykin continues to elicit a wide-range of opinions. He plays so hard, and his skills have improved to the point that many say, "He's such a winner. He just gets it done." Others are skeptical that his limited athleticism and thick body will be able to get it done once it's playing against elite high-major competition on the college level. While his skills have improved, his shot is still a slow set shot that he struggles to get off when guarded.
Harvey Perry, 6-4 SR SG, Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. The senior guard played well, staying well within himself and playing intelligently, for the most part. His outside jumper has continued to improve, to the point that it's a real threat. And he's still one of the best athletes for his size, able to move laterally very well to guard much smaller guards. The plan is still for him to go to prep school, while some schools like Fresno State and others are inquiring about his status this year.
Lawrence Hill, 6-7 JR PF, Glendale (Ariz.) Deer Valley. We saw him play two games this weekend. One game was very good, the other was poor. Hill hasn't put on much weight since last summer, still probably in the 200 pound range, even though he has a frame that looks like it could. He has some good explosion off the floor, and long arms, which enable him to get things done around the basket without really possessing any set post moves. He also loves to catch and shoot from the outside, with a jumper that needs work. But he's definitely a four man, and because of his athleticism and the frame that looks to be able to hold more weight, he's still considered one of the best in 2005.
Marcus Johnson, 6-6 JR SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. There isn't a better athlete in the west than Johnson. He has the perfect, 6-6 wing body, and his hops are unequaled. Johnson can throw down dunks with the best of them, and, when he wants to, he can be a great defender, with some great foot quickness which enables him to guard anyone. The skill set, though, hasn't developed much, nor has his grasp of the game. He's great at getting out on a break and finishing, but a bit lost in the halfcourt game. His outside jumper is still not very consistent. High majors will undoubtedly be intrigued with his athleticism, and if he ever developed the skills to match, he'd be a truly elite prospect.
Jason Hill, 6-3 JR SG, Reseda (Calif.) Cleveland. He's shaping up into one of the potentially best shooting guards in the west for the 2005 class. While he still is getting an understanding of the game and can get out of control at times, he combines a good body, good athleticism, good basic skills and hard work to make for a good prospect.
Gerard Anderson, 6-4 JR SF, Carson (Calif.) High. If Anderson had an outside shot, he'd have a chance at being one of the best wing players in the class in the west. He has a great body, and very good athleticism, with excellent quickness and body control. He has a knack for getting through traffic and taking it to the hoop with strength and agility. He's a decent jump shot away from being a high major.
Bryan Harvey, 6-4 JR SG, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Long considered one of the best wings in the class of 2005 in the west, Harvey is very talented - a very good athlete with good all-around skills. He can really get hot from the outside, and has the ability to create on his own, and even takes mid-rangers, which many prospects don't. He can get into a selfish mode for long stretches, though, where he loses focus on how to play with the rest of his teammates. In one stretch the weekend before, Harvey must have taken six threes in a row in six trips down the court. The basics have always been there, but there is just a need to keep focused on how to play good basketball for him.
Leigh Swanson, 6-7 JR PF, Mountlake Terrace (Wash.) High. A prospect we hadn't seen before this last weekend, Swanson has a chance to be a solid mid-major front court player, with some nice offensive ability to go along with good athleticism. He's still pretty thin, which makes him unable to get physical inside, but his wing-type skills combined with his hard-nosed play around the basket make him someone to definitely watch.
Khelcey Barrs, 6-6 SO SF, Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger. Barrs is one of the best sophomores in the west, with a long, athletic body and a warrior mentality. His skills have improved, but they still have a ways to go, with his jumper and ball-handling still in the raw stages.
Brook Lopez, 6-9 SO C, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial.
Robin Lopez, 6-9 SO PF, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial. The two Lopez twins have had many comparisons made to the Collins twins, and coincidentally, there is a very apt comparison. Not necessarily in level of talent, but in type of players. Brook, like Jason Collins, is the true post player, with more of a bangers mentality. He has limited offensive skills but plays hard and is an effective shot blocker and rebounder. Robin is more like Jarron Collins, playing more like a face-up four, floating further away from the basket, with a better jumper. You can even see it in the way they handle themselves, with Brook walking more confidently and Robin appearing more passive. It's early in their development, so it's still undetermined if they'll be elite high-major level, but they have the bodies and decent athleticism, and have a chance.
Andre McGee, 5-10 JR PG, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs. The well-hyped junior guard looked better in this tournament than when we saw him during his high school season. He had put on a bit of weight a couple of months ago, and it looks like he's trimmed down a bit and regained his quickness. There is no one who can break down a defender like McGee, and his outside shot has gone from a set shot to now a more fluid, quicker jumper, and it's still very accurate. The question is - McGee has been playing his break-you-down, shoot-first type of game for so long, can he really execute the point guard position in a structured college offense? As of right now, even though we list him as a point guard, his mentality is better suited to the shooting guard position.
Jeff Pendergraph, 6-9 JR C, Etiwanda (Calif.) High. In the game we saw, Pendergraph didn't do anything spectacular, but was a strong presence inside, much the same as he was when we saw him during his junior season. Raw offensively, Pendergraph is long and athletic, translating into a good rebounder and shot blocker. He'll be in the lower end of the high majors.
Dior Lowhorn, 6-6 JR PF, Berkeley (Calif.) High. He's probably even 6-5, but there isn't a better power forward in the west for every inch than Lowhorn. Tough, strong and quick off his feet, Lowhorn is one of the most active baseline players in the 2005 class, using his quick springs to gather rebounds and score putbacks. He's also great off the second jump. Lowhorn also has developed a very good-looking mid-range jumper, which he'll bury all day long, making him even more dangerous since he'll stretch interior defenses. You hate to say it, but if he were 2 inches taller, just two inches taller, he'd be a complete beast.
Larry Gurganious, 6-4 JR SF, Berkeley (Calif.) St. Mary's. Probably one of the few best, pure athletes in the west, Gurganious not only has big hops but great quickness for his size. The limitation, though, is his outside shot, which hasn't developed much. Playing for the Oakland Soldiers this last weekend, they used him extensively at point guard, which was intriguing, since he's so strong and athletic, and a good passer. If he gets a jumper, he's among the elite players in the west.
Steve Harley, 5-10 JR PG/SG, Reseda (Calif.) Cleveland. Having never seen Harley, he made believers of us this weekend. Probably the most athletic little guy in the west, Harley can not only finish inside because of good hops, he has good quicks and is a good on-the-ball defender. Offensively, he can break you down and either take it to the rim or pull-up for a very consistent mid-ranger. His outside jumper is a bit more hit and miss, though. He single-handedly led the Pump N Run team to a couple of victories last weekend. And even though he's more of a shooting guard, and 5-10, he had college coaches noticing him.
Alex Stepheson, 6-9 SO PF, Studio City (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake. With every event, you can see Stepheson getting more confident and aggressive. He used his athleticism to play more above the rim this last weekend, and went banging inside quite a bit more often. He has a good upper body, just needs to get thicker in his lower body to be able to hold his inside position. But he's definitely one of the best prospects in the class of 2006 in the west.
Christian Polk, 6-3 SO SG Glendale (Ariz.) Deer Valley. Polk was very impressive in the one game we saw him over the weekend. He's got a great body –long and lean – but also has good quickness for his size. His shot isn't real pure – sideways rotation – but he knocks down a good percentage. He's improved his ability to take defenders off the dribble. The most impressive aspect of his game, though, was his defense. He's got the physical attributes to be a great defender, but we had never seen him apply himself before at that end of the floor. Saturday night, though, he did a great job of closing out on shooters – blocking two jump shots – and also showed great lateral movement defending on the ball. Polk has a chance to be among the elite two guards in the west for 2006.
Jerryd Bayless, 6-0 FR PG Phoenix (Ariz.) St. Mary's. We've had Bayless as the top point guard in the west for 2007 since last summer and we didn't see anything in Las Vegas to change our mind. Good size and strength, great explosiveness – both in terms of quickness and off the floor. Very advanced mid-range game and an adequate shot from three-point range. He's playing on a team where he needs to score -- so we didn't see the passing ability he's shown in the past – but there's no question he's got the vision and instincts to be a big-time point guard. He's got a strong handle and plays with a lot of confidence for a freshman. With continued development, Bayless has a chance to be among the top point guards nationally in the class of 2007.
We didn't get the chance to see two of the bigger-named prospects participating this weekend -- Amir Johnson, 6-9 JR PF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, or Tyrone Shelley, 6-6 FR SF, San Diego (Calif.) Christian, regrettably.